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SC Johnson, 'A family company,' threatens to sue Oklahoma AG over use of signature slogan in Johnson & Johnson opioid suit

Lisa Micheal 4 Aug 27
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter talks with the media during a break the Opioid trial in Norman, Okla., June 26, 2019.

SC Johnson, maker of Drano, Pledge and other household products, is threatening to sue Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter for citing the company's slogan in the state's opioid lawsuit against an unrelated, yet similarly named, Johnson & Johnson

"I am writing to demand that you retract your statements that have appeared in both national and local media citing the SC Johnson tagline, 'A Family Company.' If you do not, we will have no choice but to bring suit," Johnson CEO Fisk Johnson said in a letter to Hunter released Tuesday.

Johnson said he's written Hunter more than once, asking him to refrain from using the company's slogan in statements and court filings in Oklahoma's lawsuit against consumer products company J&J and its pharmaceutical division Janssen.

"Yet it was shocking and quite frankly outrageous, that you still went on national television, again propagating this misinformation. There was simply no reason for that," Johnson said.

J&J, which denies any wrongdoing, was ordered Monday to pay the state $572 million for its role in allegedly fueling Oklahoma's opioid epidemic; the company plans to appeal the verdict.  

Oklahoma Attorney General spokesman Alex Gerszewski said Hunter wasn't intentionally trying to confuse the companies.

"To be abundantly clear, we in no way meant for anyone to confuse SC Johnson with Johnson & Johnson. It is regrettable if someone did," Gerszewski said in an emailed statement.

"The reference to Johnson & Johnson as 'a family company' comes from the way it tries to appear to the public. Our trial, in part, was about unmasking this company for what it was found guilty of yesterday, being the kingpin behind the deadliest man made epidemic in our nation's history," he said. 

Read Johnson's full letter below:

Attorney General Hunter,

I am writing to demand that you retract your statements that have appeared in both national and local media citing the SC Johnson tagline, "A Family Company." If you do not, we will have no choice but to bring suit.

This is a very difficult letter to write because the opioid crisis is such a terrible tragedy which has devastated many families. I can't possibly imagine what it's like for those families who have lost family members, and it is so important that this crisis be solved. While this issue on which I am writing pales in comparison, under the circumstance, I feel compelled to stand up for the 13,000 hardworking people of SC Johnson.

I have written to you on several occasions, "A Family Company" is the tagline of SC Johnson, not Johnson & Johnson. When you first used our tagline in May, and we reached out to your office, the Counsel for the State offered to make it clear on the record that SC Johnson is not associated with Johnson & Johnson in any manner.

We even contacted your office yesterday, as a further reminder to avoid using our tagline, which would cause people to believe SC Johnson is involved in this suit. Yet it was shocking and quite frankly outrageous, that you still went on national television, again propagating this misinformation. There was simply no reason for that.

You said yesterday that Johnson & Johnson's actions were "inconsistent with all of the grand statements that they [Johnson & Johnson] make about being a family company…" However, we can find no occasions where Johnson & Johnson has ever referred to themselves as a family company. I can only conclude that these theatrics are in the service of personal political advantage.

Respectfully,

Fisk Johnson